Summer is right around the corner, meaning it’s almost time for sand, sun and fun! And while the beach is totally tubular on a hot summer day, there’s something else by the water your kids will enjoy: A visit to a local lighthouse!
You can get up-close-and-personal with a local lighthouse, or see some from afar on an exciting boat ride or tour. The New York metropolitan area is home to many lighthouses—over 35—all of which have guided ships and vessels into New York Harbor and surrounding waterways for centuries. As cool as they are to look at, our local lighthouses each resonate a deep history that goes beyond their unique architecture and marvelous engineering. This holds true for lighthouses in NYC and around the world.
“They were crucial to building the economy of the world as they served to assure safe passage of seamen and their cargo,” said Linda Dianto, executive director of the National Lighthouse Museum, which is located by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, St. George. “Lighthouses are icons in our country, many located in some of the most magnificent locations along our waterways. Lighthouse history needs to be preserved for generations to come.”
Dawn Daniels, director of programs at the Noble Maritime Collection at Snug Harbor Cultural Institution and Botanical Garden, adds that lighthouses are a glimpse into the past.
“They’re part of New York Harbor’s history. A lot of the lighthouses stand as part of the past,” Daniels said. “They’re a look at what it was like here in New York Harbor before technology existed.”
While a lot of lighthouses are defunct, many are still in use. Browse this list of 10 historic lighthouses in NYC and nearby that families can visit or see from a ferry or tour boat, and get ready for a summer filled with lots of learning and family fun!
Lighthouses in NYC and Nearby
Let’s start with the most famous lighthouse of all—The Statue of Liberty. This beautiful monument was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. Made of copper, she was dedicated on October 28, 1886, and designated as a National Monument in 1924. Today, you can visit the pedestal of the statue, which has 215 steps, or approximately 10 stories, to its top. A visit to Liberty Island is a classic NYC way to spend a summer day with the family!
WHERE IS IT? South Street Seaport Historic Seaport District; 12 Fulton St., Manhattan
HOW TO GET THERE: The best way to get there is by Staten Island Ferry. It’s a 15-minute walk from the Whitehall Ferry Terminal.
This beautiful lighthouse is a memorial dedicated to the RMS Titanic’s passengers, officers and crew who perished when the ship sank on April 15, 1912, after colliding with an iceberg on its way to New York City. Placed on the roof of the Seamen’s Church Institute, it was officially dedicated in 1913. Although it served as a memorial, it had a practical use as well. Its signature green light could be seen by vessels 10 miles out. When the Seamen’s Church Institute relocated, the old building, along with the lighthouse, was set to be demolished. Thankfully, it was donated to the Seaport Museum and erected in its current location in May 1976. Today, people can stop by and reflect on the Titanic tragedy and think about the over 1,500 people who lost their lives that fateful day.
WHERE IS IT? Located between Staten Island’s North Shore and the Statue of Liberty.
HOW TO GET THERE: While the lighthouse isn’t open for visitors, you can see it along the Staten Island Ferry ride.
Staten Island’s Noble Maritime Collection owns this adorable “sparkplug” lighthouse that you can see from the Staten Island Ferry. Kate Walker was the lighthouse keeper here for 33 years. The museum is working on restoring the lighthouse and hopes to one day make it possible to open for visitors. In the meantime, you can see a wonderful exhibit dedicated to Robbins Reef Lighthouse at the museum, which is located at Snug Harbor, and discover its fascinating history!
WHERE IS IT? Fort Washington Park, Manhattan. Underneath the George Washington Bridge
HOW TO GET THERE: Head to Fort Washington Park along Manhattan’s West Side. Access is by the Hudson River Greenway, a waterfront walking/biking path.
This cute lighthouse was erected in 1921 as a navigational aid for ships on the Hudson River. When the George Washington Bridge opened in 1931, the brighter lights of the bridge made the lighthouse obsolete. The U.S. Coast Guard planned to auction off the lighthouse, but an outpouring of support saved it. The heartwarming children’s book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, tells the story of how there’s still a place in the world for an old lighthouse, and it resonates with an inspiring message of perseverance for readers of all ages. Today, The Little Red Lighthouse is owned by the NYC Parks Dept. and is a great place to visit. While tours of the interior are limited, there is still lots to do throughout Fort Washington Park to have an afternoon filled with fun.
Visitors to the Fort Wadsworth Lighthouse enjoy an amazing view of New York Harbor. It was constructed in 1903 and sits atop of Fort Wadsworth’s Battery Weed (another interesting structure). Similar to the Little Red Lighthouse’s story, the Fort Wadsworth Light became obsolete after the Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in 1965. Years went by and it became abandoned. A restoration effort led by Staten Island resident, Joe Esposito, was ultimately able to save the lighthouse. Today, the lighthouse isn’t open to the public, but visitors can admire its beauty from the outside.
Staten Island Rear Range Lighthouse
WHERE IS IT? Lighthouse Hill, Staten Island
This 90-foot tower is located on Richmond Hill, at a point that is 145 feet above sea level. It’s a wonderful part of Staten Island’s history. While it’s not usually open to visitors, it’s still great to know this beautiful lighthouse exists on Staten Island.
WHERE IS IT? Fort Hancock, NJ
HOW TO GET THERE: You can drive or take NJ Transit. Seastreak also offers visitors a high-speed ferry to Sandy Hook from Manhattan.
This national historic landmark is owned by the National Park Service. The New Jersey Lighthouse Society is a partner. The lighthouse is one of many things to check out in Sandy Hook. After viewing the lighthouse, families can enjoy a blanket picnic on the beach, take a stroll around Fort Hancock and enjoy many other recreational activities in the area.
WHERE IS IT? Robert Moses Causeway, Suffolk County, NY
HOW TO GET THERE: You can take a ferry ride from Bay Shore to Kismet, then walk or take a water taxi to the lighthouse. Or you can drive to Robert Moses State Park.
Owned by the National Park service, the Fire Island Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Long Island, standing at 168 feet. It’s so tall, you can even see the NYC skyline in the distance! The lighthouse is open daily, and tours are usually available.
WHERE IS IT? 2000 Montauk Hwy., Suffolk County, NY
HOW TO GET THERE: Accessible by car via Long Island Expressway; Long Island Railroad; and Hampton Jitney.
Plan a summer weekend of fun at Montauk Point, located on the eastern end of Long Island. You’ll not only see the historic Montauk Point Lighthouse, a beloved Long Island icon, but enjoy many other family-friendly activities, too. Explore Montauk State Park, stay at one of the many waterside hotels, eat at fine seafood restaurants and do so much more in this popular NYC getaway spot.
WHERE IS IT? Two starting points to choose from: Conference House Park, 298 Satterlee St; National Lighthouse Museum, 200 The Promenade at Lighthouse Point
HOW TO GET THERE: This is a car, bike or motorcycle tour.
Want to see a whole bunch of lighthouses during one trip? Join the Great Staten Island Lighthouse Hunt, organized by the National Lighthouse Museum! Follow a map, and see lighthouses right from your car!
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